I’ve gotten a lot of, “When are you moving up?” inquiries lately, and the truth is, I don’t know. Thankfully I have 5 more days to figure it out.
If anyone has any insight on Carolina Horse Park’s Novice course, let me know! I’ve found some helmet cams on YT, but most are from 2015.
See, the thing is, for all the jokes I make, the jumps themselves don’t scare me. What gets to me is how I think Pilgrim will react to them. If my dear horse would just come right on out and say, “Listen lady, I won’t stop at a single thing today,” it’d be GAME ON.
But sadly, Pilgrim no habla ingles. Now, do I think it’s helpful to walk around a course and go, “He’s going to stop at that, and that, and that…?” Of course not. Self-fulfilling prophecy and all. If I’m unsure, P feels that. He doesn’t know that the REASON I’m unsure is whether or not he’s going to stop, he just knows I don’t feel right. Then he stops. And around and around we go. It’s mental, I know. I’m working on it.
The next horse trial coming up is, on paper, the perfect setting for a move up. It’s a venue we’ve been to twice before, it’s unrecognized, and they have a schooling day the day before where you can jump the exact stadium courses and all of the XC jumps (you can’t jump the XC jumps in order, if I remember correctly).
So why the hesitation?
Number one: Memories
I attended this same show exactly a year ago. And joined a clinic for the schooling day, which still to this day, remains my absolute worst ride on P. The clinician was so critical of P that although I started off defending him (there was A LOT going on, to be fair), I slowly started believing her. She made comment after comment about how “shitty” he was, which really got in my head. Then made some comments about how we should be competing over poles on the ground, when she didn’t know we were in earshot. And the next day, even when P was back to his non-demonic self for the actual competition, she made some more comments about his sanity that rattled me.
Now, should I have let this virtual stranger dictate how I felt about my horse when she had observed us for a grand total of ONE crappy hour? No. But I was keenly aware that this was my FOURTH time at attempting to move up to BN, not to mention I’d only had him back from the worst-selling-experience-ever for 2 months, so I was a bit fragile. The most awful part about falling off halfway through stadium wasn’t the bruises, the burn from sliding in the sand, or the embarrassment; it was the smug look on her face as I led my horse out of the arena.
Number two: The Schooling Day
The schooling day there can be a bit crazy, which was my main reason for putting P in the 2’3″ division when we went last November. The XC course for the baby levels is separate from the BN+ levels, and sure enough, when we schooled, it was calm and quiet. P’s main downfall is other horses, so when we were there last June, he was totally freaked out when we were in the woods part of the XC course and could hear all these horses, but couldn’t see them. So even though we have the advantage of seeing the jumps before the competition, that could easily be negated by the craziness of the schooling day.
Number three: ALREADY?
Now, this is how I see other people out there doing things: they train, have success, move up. Rinse and repeat. We have not been so linear.
I’m not saying no one else has issues, but rather sometimes I look back and we seem to have moved at a snail’s pace. I’ve owned P for 4 years, for crying out loud. And I sometimes cringe when I think of it like that. BUT…when I got P he was 4. We didn’t even attempt anything jumping-related until late 2015. Then there were those 3 months I was out with a broken ankle. And the 2 months he was in Aiken to be sold. So in reality, I guess it’s actually closer to 2 years that we’ve been struggling along. Sounds better than 4 years!
But no matter how you slice it, I’m still used to taking things quite slowly. From 2015-2017, we entered 8 horse trials at the starter level. Of those 8, we completed 6. We were eliminated two times (one because I steered P out of the arena in dressage). So not as bad of a track record as I sometimes make it sound, I admit.
In 2017 I entered two horse trials at BN. The first one ended with the RF, the last one ended on our dressage score.
And we’ve had one go together in 2018- at Windridge at BN where he was great jumping, but felt off while galloping, so I opted to retire.
And then of course, with Trainer B in the saddle, P has now had a successful run at Novice on a tough course in a huge field. And was a total champ.
So is it really too soon? Maybe not.